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Park Service Identifies Climbers, Says They Were Warned

May 15, 1996

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) _ Two German climbers who were killed by an avalanche on Mount Hunter had been warned by the National Park Service not to attempt the route they chose, officials said Tuesday.

``We cautioned them that the route they were picking was dangerous, that there had been avalanches,″ said Park Service spokesman John Quinley. ``They were on a route that had never been climbed before.″

The two were identified Tuesday as Olaf Hecklinger, 24, of Besigheim, Germany, and Marcus Von Zitzewitz, 25, of Grainar, Germany.

They were at the 11,500-foot level on the north buttress of 14,570-foot Mount Hunter on Monday, roped together, when an avalanche swept them 1,000 feet down the mountain.

Other climbers witnessed the avalanche, and rangers spotted their bodies after the avalanche.

The two had hoped to climb nearby Mount McKinley, but had failed to register with the Park Service 60 days before their climb. This year marks the first time advance registration is required to climb on McKinley, the continent’s tallest peak at 20,320 feet, and nearby Mount Foraker.

``It’s an effort to improve safety on the mountain,″ Quinley said. ``Currently there are 31 other German climbers on the mountain and they registered without difficulty. Most everybody figures it out.″

Hecklinger, Von Zitzewitz and their two other climbing partners were told they could climb anywhere else in the Alaska Range, he said. The two other members of their party decided not to attempt the Mount Hunter climb.

Unusually warm weather has increased the risk of avalanches in the Alaska Range during the current climbing season, said Park Service mountaineering ranger Billy Shott.

``The snow conditions from 11,000 to 12,000 feet down are extremely wet, heavy and unconsolidated, typical conditions we see from mid- to late June,″ Shott said.

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